I-10 pursuit near Eloy ends in deadly crash with tractor-trailer; 3 killed, driver arrested

An 18-year-old man from Phoenix has been arrested after he allegedly drove an SUV carrying eight other people head-on into a semi truck during a chase on Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak.

DPS says on April 21, a trooper attempted to pull over a Toyota RAV4 for reckless driving, but the driver kept going, and the trooper followed the vehicle. During the pursuit, the vehicle reportedly crossed the median into oncoming traffic and slammed into a tractor-trailer head-on.

Two people in the SUV died at the scene, and one person died at a hospital. Five were airlifted to hospitals in Phoenix and Tucson.  

DPS says the driver of the big rig and the driver of another vehicle that crashed were both treated for minor injuries.

The driver of the SUV, 18-year-old Phoenix resident Kevin Avila, was booked into Pinal County Jail and faces charges of first-degree homicide, endangerment and aggravated assault.

The three victims were identified on April 29 as:

  • Alexis Miguel Fuentes De La Cruz, 22
  • Omar Ortiz-Ramirez, 36
  • Raúl Carranza-Alonso, 39

All of them were Mexican nationals, according to DPS.

One person in the SUV is still in the hospital, but the rest of the injured have since been treated and released. Authorities did not disclose any other information about the victims involved in the crash.

Human smuggling suspected

It was a chaotic scene for drivers and investigators. There are two investigations going on: Department of Public Safety troopers are looking into the deadly collision and Homeland Security agents are investigating possible human smuggling.

"This took place in a matter of seconds. Moments later, after the trooper attempted to stop the vehicle, it was just a matter of moments between the vehicle not stopping and then crossing the median and striking the tractor trailer," said DPS Sgt. Jesus Gastelum.

The Eloy Fire District says it deployed all of its resources to respond to the crash.

"There were nine people in there and there is a question of the legal status," said Gastelum.

Agents with Homeland Security investigations are interviewing witnesses and survivors, looking into whether the people inside the SUV are part of human smuggling activity.

Westbound lanes were re-opened just before 4 p.m.

Eastbound remained closed in the Eloy area during the investigation and re-opened just before 7 p.m. 

More Arizona headlines

Get breaking news alerts in the FREE FOX 10 News app. Download for Apple iOS or Android.

Kevin Avila was arrested after he allegedly drove a van head-on into a semi truck during a chase on I-10.

Kevin Avila was arrested after he allegedly drove a van head-on into a semi truck during a chase on I-10.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.